Opiates

Duragesic

Duragesic ® is a transdermal patch that gradually releases fentanyl, a painkiller 81 times more potent than morphine.

Duragesic® works primarily by releasing fentanyl into fatty tissue – it is then released gradually into the bloodstream for prolonged pain relief.

The potential for abuse and even overdose is extremely high. A lethal dose of fentanyl can be as little as .5 milligrams in a person with low tolerance. As a result, early treatment for dependency is crucial.

Duragesic is a prescription transdermal patch that delivers the opiate Fentanyl for those with persistent, moderate-to-severe chronic pain. Fentanyl is absorbed into the body slowly, providing relief for pain for up to three days. Because they are strong narcotics, Duragesic and Fentanyl should be used when other, less potent medications don’t work for round-the-clock pain. It is intended for individuals who are already tolerant to opiates. If used by a patient whose system is not used to opiates, the drug can cause fatal respiratory depression. The patch comes in five sizes, delivering between 12.5 and 100 micrograms per hour.

WARNINGS FOR DURAGESIC

Warnings that come with the prescription say Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S., which classifies drugs according to their potential to be abused and cause dependence. It is in the same classification as morphine, methadone and OxyContin , which all have a high potential for abuse and fatal overdose, according to the label. The high content of Fentanyl in the Duragesic patch makes it a likely target for misuse, abuse and diversion, the manufacturer says. Duragesic should only be used on intact skin in its intended form. It should not be used if the patch has been cut, damaged or changed in any way. This could lead to quick absorption of a potentially fatal dose of Fentanyl, according to the label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration received several reports of deaths and life-threatening side effects despite a July 2005 advisory that emphasized safe use. The FDA said some doctors prescribe the patch inappropriately for pain following surgery, headaches and occasional or mild pain.

DURAGESIC SIDE EFFECTS

As with most opiate painkillers, side effects could produce diarrhea, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, confusion, sweating, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, weight loss, dizziness, hallucinations, anxiety, depression and flu-like symptoms. In some cases, side effects could be more serious or life-threatening.

DURAGESIC ADDICTION/OVERDOSE/WITHDRAWAL/TREATMENT

Regular users of Fentanyl may become addicted quickly. It is most often used orally but like heroin can be smoked, snorted or injected. On the black market, Fentanyl is most often sold in Duragesic patch form. It can be cut up or eaten and the gel inside the patch can be smoked. The FDA says some patients use the patch incorrectly, by replacing it more frequently than prescribed or applying a heat source to the patch. This causes dangerously high levels of the drug in the bloodstream and can lead to overdose, it said. Because prolonged use of opiate drugs can cause tolerance, patients who use them should be gradually weaned from them. Abruptly discontinuing use can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Opiate addiction is on the rise around the world. Fortunately, many treatment options are available. They could include in-patient or out-patient programs and may require detox, rehabilitation and after-care therapy. Many cases of long-term opiate abuse require medically-supervised detox to ensure patients are safe and comfortable.

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